Elements of a Successful Consultancy
The BTSE Consultancy Program is continuously evaluating itself and looking to grow in its capacity to guide and consult with institutional organizations. Many lessons were learned during the pilot phase of the project, and these are summarized below. The purpose of verbalizing these lessons here is to further promote growth as consultants as well as provide clarity to institutions about things that can aid in providing the most successful BTSE experience.
A successful consultancy relies on first choosing an appropriate institution. Institutions that are best fits for a BTSE Consultancy meet the following criteria: demonstrate an urgency and a need, have a well defined and reliable local support system, and are willing to comply with a short timeline.
Urgency and Need
- Institutions demonstrate an urgency and a need.
- There must be a critical or important issue that can likely be addressed using the expertise within the BTSE Consortium.
- The focus of this issue is in or can be limited to one or two departments or interdisciplinary/interdepartmental programs.
- There is a degree of uncertainty about how to proceed toward addressing the issue.
- There must be a broad agreement among the relevant faculty about the importance of the issue, and there is some consensus commitment to work on addressing the issue.
Local Support System
A well defined and reliable local support system is key to a successful consultancy site. The Institutional Coordinator (IC) acts as the point of communication between BTSE consultants and the institution. Their role is to support the department in their efforts, not to direct the department in how to address the issue. The IC must be someone who
- is widely respected
- acknowledges that there is some level of readiness for change
- can effectively solicit the engagement of faculty and relevant stakeholders
- understands the responsibilities, timeline, and benefits of the consultancy and has time to take on these responsibilities.
It is generally preferable to have an IC who is a member of the administration (department chair, program coordinator, etc.). The institution's administration (e.g. Dean, Provost, etc.) must be supportive of the consultancy, the department, and the IC.
There also must be a willingness of the consultancy participants to participate in data collection as it relates to the consortium (e.g. readiness for change survey, end of PD event surveys, etc.).
Timing of the consultancy is crucial. The department and/or institution must be in a position to initiate a consultancy within a few months of identifying the issue. Delaying the start of the consultancy can result in a loss of momentum and a dissipation of focus on the critical issue that is the target of the consultancy.
A key element to a successful consultancy is to have a thorough understanding of the local context and the complexity of the identified challenges. Essential details to understand may include:
- impactful state laws
- institutional practices
- familiarity of faculty members with evidence-based pedagogic practices
- departmental history and infrastructure
- availability and/or access to program data related to student success
Prepare for the Visit
- The dates for the consultancy visit should be confirmed as soon as possible — and at least two months ahead of time. An important aspect to consider in setting this date is the availability of key stakeholders. Local stakeholders should be informed of the dates for the visit and the nature of the consultancy as soon as the dates are set.
- The Institutional Coordinator will coordinate the schedule for the visit with the relevant stakeholders at the site. Taking advantage of existing meeting schedules and working with administrators are successful strategies for ensuring participation in consultancy meetings with stakeholders.
- Ideally, consultancy teams should include time for the team to debrief as part of the visit schedule.
- The schedule for the visit should be finalized at least two weeks prior to the start of the visit. At this time, local stakeholders should receive the schedule and any additional related information about the consultants and the consultancy.
- The presence of the Institutional Coordinator at meetings during the consultancy should be carefully considered. In many meetings with stakeholders, the presence of the Institutional Coordinator may inhibit free and open exchange. For this reason, thoughtful consideration should be given to this issue.
A well planned visit is a successful one.
During the two-day consultancy visit, it is vital to:
- meet with as many students as possible,
- meet with an array of faculty,
- follow up afterward with those who were absent, and
- schedule meetings with institutional support services available to students and to faculty.